Friday, August 29, 2008

Neighborly Update

The dark maroon sedan is gone. The big copper-colored truck is back as is the red car. I saw the young Asian-looking woman getting out of the red car as I was picking up my mail yesterday. I haven't seen the young black woman for two weeks or so.

The dog is in their backyard tonight, barking like crazy at 8:30 pm. We have noise ordinances that include barking dogs.

Perhaps I should write a soap opera, based on the neighbors.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The copper-colored truck and the red car have been gone for several days now. This morning there was a dark maroon sedan with in-state plates in the driveway.

On second thought, I probably don't want to know what's going on over there.

Got an appointment to get little Nicholas' toenails cut tomorrow; his front nails always grow so long and so fast. The vet and I can't figure it out. Of course, the appointment just happens to be at the same time as the rescheduled Evil Committee meeting. Oh dear me . . .

Friday, August 22, 2008

Flash's Story

I deliberately went to the local bird club's bird fair with only a debit card and maybe $15 in cash. It was maybe four or five years ago. I had two birds: Sugar Franklin and Charli. I wasn't going to let myself become a victim of MBS (multiple bird syndrome).

It was a great day -- lots of beautiful parrots and toys and cages and toys and treats and toys. Baby parrots, breeder parrots, pet parrots.

I stopped by a cage full of baby cockatiels. The birds, the man at the table told me, were from a friend who had died. He raised English budgies and didn't know much about cockatiels.

He pointed out one of the babies and praised the bird for playing with toys and climbing all over the cage. "He's like that all the time," the man said. "My niece feeds him Cheerio's through the cage every day. He likes Cheerios's."

I listened politely and said I wasn't going to buy any birds, and then I turned away.

"I'm willing to come down on the price," he called.

I lifted my hand in farewell and went on to admire the parrots at the next table.

Later as I walked back by the man and his cockatiels, he stopped me and said he'd sell him to me for only $50. I stood at the cage for a long time and watched the bird interact with his cagemates. He was pretty active, I thought. But I summoned up all my strength and again said no, I already had all the birds I could handle.

I walked away, feeling very good about myself. I went outside to get some fresh air and thought about the little cockatiel the man was willing to sell for only $50.

A little later I went back inside to pick up some more toys, and I had to pass the man and his cockatiels.

"Here he is!" the man said. "Just $50." I shook my head. I glanced at the cage. He really was a cute cockatiel.

I went on and the man followed me. "I really need to sell these cockatiels and I won't take him home with me." I couldn't imagine what he would do if he didn't sell the bird.

"I only have $5 on me," I said. "Sorry."

"I'll take it," he exclaimed. "I'll give you my card and you can just mail me the rest."

Before I could say no again, I was holding a ragged box with the baby cockatiel in it.

I had an extra cage at home, so I got things set up quickly and turned the bird loose in it. I placed the cage in my study for quarantine, then called Dr. Z for a baby bird check. He was about 6 months old.

He was such a sweet baby bird -- hungry for scritches and curious. He had, I saw for the first time, a crooked beak. But he didn't seem to have trouble eating.

I watched him for a few days before naming him. At one point he was out of the cage and flew over to the table with the play stand. It happened in a flash, so that's what I named him.

Dr. Z gave me the bad news -- Flash tested positive for pssiticosis (I know I'm spelling that wrong) and he would have to receive treatment. Because all my birds shared the same air system the other two would have to be treated, too.

I called the man to tell him that his entire flock was probably infected, but he said his birds were healthy, nothing wrong with them. I explained that pssiticosis could be passed to humans, but he was "sure" his birds were fine. He hung up on me.

Flash was maybe a year or two old when Nicholas came into the house, and that was about the time Flash decided he didn't like being touched and liked me even less. He wasn't impressed with Nicholas either, despite Nicholas' joy at being with other cockatiels. Flash was and still is very interested in Sugar Franklin, but she thinks she's human and doesn't like any other birds (I blame myself).

So that's where things stand with Flash these days. He refuses to let me touch him and hisses mightily if I get too near. Everyday I "force" him to step up and take him to the basket stand or the study to be with Nicholas and Sugar Franklin, which he tolerates so he can get out of his cage. But he almost always makes heart wings at me when I'm near the cage, protected by the bars, and will often come to the bars to listen to me telling him what a big boy he is, if I'm a safe enough distance away.

I love Flash in a special way, even though he'll probably never really warm up to me.

Sometimes I offer him a Cheerio through the cage bars.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Close Call

I went outside to pick up my mail. A woman was walking her big lab on the other side of the street. We waved at one another, though I have no idea who she was.

I turned back to my driveway, looking through the junk mail. I heard a dog barking furiously, so I took one step into the grass of my yard and leaned over to see if it was the neighbor's dog.

It was. He/she was going crazy with the barking and had been tied to what looked like a coiled, wrapped wire. He rushed out at me but the wire held. For a moment. Then the stake came loose from the ground, and he ran toward me.

I froze, though I was telling myself to move! move! move! I remembered the young black woman telling me he wouldn't bite anyone, that he was very friendly. But this creature flying toward me and barking didn't look very friendly. He was running so fast that his feet didn't even touch the ground. The neighbor's dog noticed the other dog while he was about three feet from me, so he headed off toward the woman and her dog who were now on the corner, watching in horror. This entire event took maybe thirty seconds.

I ran to the neighbor's front porch and rang the bell about 4 times. The man came to the door (I noticed he wasn't that old and was, in fact, pretty good looking).

"Your dog has gotten loose and is chasing me and that other dog," I said, pointing to the woman who was pulling her dog away. The neighbor's dog was just barking but not making any threatening moves toward the woman and her dog.

"Come here, Champ," the black man called. He came outside and headed to the corner.

"I'm sure he's friendly," I said, "but it's scary to have him chase you like that."

"Come on, Champ," he called again. We didn't speak further.

I went on into my house and tried to get my blood pressure back to normal. I've never been attacked by an animal before, though I've been bitten. It was a horrible feeling.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Schedule at Vermont

Several people have asked what it was like at Vermont as far as the conference went. Here's the basic schedule:

7:30 to 8:30
Breakfast (kitchen closed at 8:30, but you could linger in the dining room)

8:45 to 9:45
bookstore open (most of the time and at other random times)

10:00 to noon

Noon to 12:30

1:45 to 2:45
lectures or private conferences with faculty

3:00 to 4:45

5:30 to 6:00

7:00 to 7:45
participant (student) readings

8:00 to 9ish
faculty readings (with wonderful brownies and apple cider)


8:00 to whenever
hosted parties or ice cream socials, etc.

If you had a car and/or willing friends, go downtown to Julio's to drink beer and eat nachoes. Otherwise, go to your room and collapse on the bed, declaring you're going to get some sleep tonight only to lay awake until 1 reading one of the books you've bought at the bookstore.

Multiply by six days.

No TV or newspapers or radio around in the dorms, and would be unwelcome even if they were around. Some of us got news from in the computer lab; most of us didn't care what was happening in the world. Each day felt like a week, literally.

Most everyone in my workshop stuck together; we all tended to get up early and have breakfast together (along with other folks, of course), then sit together for lunch and dinner, and sit together if we attended the same lectures.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Last Vacation Day

Last vacation day for awhile. Tomorrow I have to go back to that Evil Place and shuffle papers. Oh well, things could be worse.

I feel a lot better than I did earlier. Just needed more sleep, I guess.

Heard from DF today; haven't heard from him in a long time. He's doing well, and we both promised we'd do better about staying connected. The sad thing is that we both really, really mean it.

I thought I heard the dog next door barking Thursday night, when I got home, but I haven't heard it since. Or seen it. I hope they're keeping it inside, not letting it run loose in hopes it'll run away and no longer be a problem for them. Maybe they don't know what happens when a dog ends up in the pound. Cute dog, too; kinda boxer and mutt mix -- loud bark but very friendly. People who don't take care of their animals are not people I want to know.

Finished maybe half of The Gift, and I highly recommend it to anyone with any amount of creativity whatsoever -- which means everyone. It's about, as Baron put it, the anthropology of poetry, but it's about more than that. It's a way of understanding and learning to live with what is valued in our society and what is not -- without diminishing the two.

And I am still trudging through The Art of the Personal Essay by Philip Lopate. It's in choronological order, and around about RL Stevenson I skipped ahead. The language in the earlier English stuff is too ornate for me, though I appreciate its value within its own time. I liked Seneca and the early Greek works.

I dread going back to work and seeing the English language butchered by people who truly believe themselves to be great editors and writers. When in reality they don't have a clue. Take capitalization, for example. The title of a job is NOT capitalized unless it's directly attached to the person holding that job. Chief medical officer is not capitalized unless it's Alice Doe, Chief Medical Officer. Yet these poor souls capitalize stuff like that repeatedly. More suck-up value. They don't capitalize nurse or technician or manager (and consistency is the first thing you learn as an editor). And when I refuse to capitalize non-proper nouns I get told I'm wrong and don't know what I'm talking about and to just do what the ignorant tell me to do. I refer them to any book on basic grammar, but of course, they already know everything and don't need to look it up.

I've heard people say that any noun preceded by "the" is automatically a proper noun and should be capitalized. And any title is a proper noun. Where on earth do people get this stuff?

A lot of it is stylistic, based on who makes the most money. Nurse isn't capitalized because they're mostly women and don't make as much as the male chief medical officer. It's as simple as that.

Earlier this year I came across a blog about Humphrey the parrot. His last entry was about being moved from England to America, and about being sick after quarantine. At least once every week or so I'd check on the blog to see how he was doing, but there were never any updates. The latest issue of Bird Talk reprinted some correspondence about a woman adopting a special needs bird of the same species as her parrot Humphrey, who had died six days after the last date of the blog. I wrote Bird Talk to forward a note to her. It was obvious from the blogs how loved and cherished Humphrey was, and when the owner said he was the light of her life and that his death devastated her, I knew she wasn't exaggerating. I'll take his blog off my bookmark list now.

I decided, at 10:47 am, to go to the movies today. It always feels so decadent to go to the movies during a work day. I went to see Brideshead Revisited, which I haven't seen in decades -- so long ago with Jeremy Irons that I'd forgotten what it's about.

Why is it that great literary works of art nearly always involve dysfunctional families?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Settling Back In

Went out for breakfast again; I got up too late to make the Farmer's Market and avoid the crowds. So after breakfast I went to the Good Foods Coop for some eggs and bread and bacon. I also got two bottles of melatonin since I put my usual bottle away somewhere "safe" (where I'll never find it again) and a half gallon of Newman's lemonade. I also got some homeopathic Boiron rhus toxicodendron for joint pain that improves with motion, 12 power. I don't know if 12 is stronger than 20 or not. Wouldn't it be great if I could get off piroxicam for pain altogether?

I haven't felt as perky as usual since I got home. Sore throat at night, dizziness during the day, continuing bad balance, exhaustion. I have a three-inch circle bruise high on my left shoulder, from the fall at Ellen's. Probably the airline air and change in routine and not getting enough sleep.

I received both The Gift by Lewis Hyde and The Art of the Personal Essay by what's-his-name from, so I've been reading, without the TV. In fact, I only turned on the TV last night to watch Legally Blonde, just for fun and because I was tired of reading.

TV is okay, but it's too easy to watch it or have it on all the time. I've been keeping it on during the day for the birds, so when I get home I automatically plop down on the couch and before I know it, it's eleven o'clock. Lately I've been leaving the TV off on weekends and just having NPR on. The weekends feel longer and better to me when I do that. So I think I'll just leave the radio on for the birds while I'm at work.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

I unlocked the front door and took a few steps into the front hall. "Is anybody home?" I asked, as I often do.


I took a few more steps into the living room and looked at the cages. "Isn't anybody here?"

Stunned silence for maybe a full 20 seconds, then an alarming amount of chirping and calling.

I made a big fuss over seeing them, then went out to the car to get the rest of my stuff. They called after me, loudly, as if I might not come back.

Charli, I think, has been most affected. She's been watching me and hanging upside down, and also making a big show of eating a grape. She'll stop whatever she's doing once in awhile and just stare at me with those big dark liquid eyes.

Sugar keeps looking at me and chirping, while running back and forth.

The Bobbsey Twins, though chirping, don't seem to care one way or the other.

Got the shuttle yesterday morning at six; Leslie Ullman and another woman were passengers,too, so we talked about living in Taos, this other woman retiring as a physician, and me as a parrot behavior consultant.

The airline trip home was the usual wretched experience, but all the flights were on time.

Stopped by Wal-Mart this morning to do the one-hour photo delivery (I slept a good solid twelve hours last night), but their machine is broken and it may be a day or more. Then I went to one of my favorite breakfast places for an omelet. Instead of the usual home fries, I substituted fruit -- which turned out to be a bowl of red grapes (which I don't care for) and two tiny scraps of pineapple and three tiny chips of cantelope. I insisted on a better balance of fruits, and got it.

Had my first iced tea, unsweetened, no lemon in seven days. My life can continue now.

Stopped at Kroger's. Got a box of pre-washed mixed lettuces, some carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, mushrooms, and grapes for me and the birds. Got some fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberry halves for Charli -- she loves fruit and the more expensive the better.

During one of my calls back home to L, she said the humane society left a big red warning tag on my door about my dog being unlicensed and wandering around the neighborhood, that a complaint had been filed about it.

I don't have a dog.

I knew, of course, it was meant for the neighbors. Their dog got out once and I told the young black woman who lives there; she apologized. I said I wasn't complaining, but I was sure she didn't want him running all over the place.

So when I got home yesterday, I marked through my house number and wrote in theirs. I rang the bell once since the big copper-colored truck was in the drive, but no one answered. So I left it hanging on the door handle. About an hour later I noticed it was gone. This morning there are two new cars in the drive. What on earth goes on over there?

Gotta go start dealing with all this dirty laundry!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


We took Baron out to dinner tonight. We laughed a lot, everyone with their own peculiar sense of humor. I stayed for Leslie Ullman's poetry reading (which left me exactly as I was when she began) and then went back for the "farewell reception." I talked with Pam for a bit. I said, "I guess there's no point in saying keep in touch, huh?" But she said yes, that she was good about that sort of thing. Baron stopped by to say goodbye, then Pam and I talked a bit about her poetry.

Naturally I've been feeling nostalgic and sad all evening -- exorcising ghosts always leaves some emptiness behind. But at least I'm not a crying mess about leaving the way I was in January of 1989.

I realize I have to rework some of the poems in the middle section of my book, based on Baron's workshop, before Charlie goes to press with it. Luckily, he gave me until the end of the year.

Then I called L to check on the birds and the state of things at home, and when I hung up I realized I was homesick. I miss my birds. I miss my little house and its little piles of clutter, my Irish shamrock plant, my keyboard and music books, my piles of books. I miss my mother calling and talking forever about her sisters and her church and the neighbors. But most especially I miss my birds. I want to kiss little Sugar Franklin's yellow breast feathers, which she pretends to hate; I want to feel Charli jump onto my shoulder from the back of the couch; I want to watch Nicholas and Flash scurry from the basket stand to get to Sugar's cage so they can eat her food and play with her toys (all exactly like the food and toys in their cage, but still).

The shuttle will be picking me up at six tomorrow morning to take me to the Burlington airport and, if the airline gods are smiling, I'll be home by two.

Homesick. As simple and profound as that.

Last Day

I was sitting outside the Stone Science building, watching a far-off soccer game on the quad and the occasional person walking down the sidewalk. So many of these people seem so close and intimate yet I'll forget their names in a few days, forget what they looked like, what we talked about. Six such intense days. Even if we stay in touch, as we say we will, it will all be different.

Baron was, as always, wonderful in our last workshop. I asked if you shouldn't "know" what a poem was about, the subject matter of it. Just like JBH, he said no. That was the thing about art; it isn't necessary to "know" or to figure out the "meaning." He said in his two books on writing poetry the word "mean" does not appear; it isn't important. Just like JBH always kept telling me and I keep forgetting. Open yourself to the experience without judgement; that's how you grow. To search for meaning is reductive, Baron said. To be open is expansive.

I asked him how to know when a piece of writing is an essay or a poem, and he said it would become obvious the more I wrote.

I can't get over how much like JBH he is. They laugh in the same places of discussion, they both come from the same sensibilities.

When will I learn and remember that things fall into place in their own time? Baron came, completely unexpected and unplanned, at just the perfect time.

As I expected, he said to unpack the poem "Return," and to write more about the last two stanzas of "River Blues." And here I was certain that "River Blues" was finished. But I can see his point and even see now where I could expand it to make it more powerful.

Write more, he told me during our conference. He said what marked the professional from the amateur was the use of big words like "time," "world," "justice," "we." That amateurs indicated, filled in the blanks, used a kind of shorthand rather than delving deeper into the language. I swear I learned more this week than I did in one whole semester getting my MFA. And that's saying a lot.

He lives here in Vermont, in a round house. He said it made him more aware of the space around him. And that he only does these types of workshops once or twice a year, so it doesn't get boring.

A beautiful day today, sunny. Last night I went to the ice cream social. Yep, they served Ben & Jerry's. I got some butter pecan and walked back to Dewey Hall with Cathy. Everyone was going to tell ghost stories, but I didn't want to stay and listen. I figured if they told a ghost story about Dewey Hall I'd lay awake all night thinking about it. Instead I started packing.

Last night I got online and ordered $71.00 worth of Nutriberries and those little chew toys the cockatiels like, especially Flash. sigh . . . .

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where to Start . . . .

It's Tuesday, and still raining in the mornings and nights and sunny during the day.

Sunday night was Ellen Lesser's party, which was fun except that I fell down on those awful rock steps, wet, and in the dark. But no damage was done (and no, I wasn't drunk).

Last night they had a jazz band come in and an open bar. Several of us got up to read poems while Tony (the trombone player), the sax player, and the pianist did jazz riffs or various renditions as background. Everyone's work was so good heard that way. Near the end I finally let myself be talked into reading. I read "Dancing with Prozac," and I'd told Tony to play something black humorish and ironic. He did, though I have no idea what song it was. Kathleen began laughing so hard she was literally falling out of her seat, which made those around her laugh, and then I started laughing while I was reading. Cathy read a wonderful poem about her friend Jane not having a husband or even dates, and how all these men should be filling Jane's mailbox and answering machine with notes and calls and so on. And when Jane would finally get married all the other men would gather behind Cathy, holding their roses and boxes of candy, watching Jane drive off, all looking the same way. Droll and hysterical with that flat language and matter of fact tone.

Had my private conference with Baron yesterday, and it was much shorter than scheduled, which was okay. He said his instinct and based on the work I'd sent in was that I should really think about doing personal essays, that all the work I'd sent in could be "unpacked" and easily developed into essay form. He didn't imply that they weren't already poems or couldn't be poems, but that I might find the essay form a lot more freeing. I think I'll give it a try. God knows I write enough letters. Then we talked about JBH (my mentor), who Baron knows and likes.

Today's workshop was fun; we all laughed a lot. We're taking Baron out to dinner tomorrow night (our last day). I told him we were going to get him drunk and make him speak Latin. He gave the most extraordinary reading last night -- one of the best I've ever heard, and I'm not saying that because I like him. Two women from our workshop and I decided we'd do The Wave at him when he got up to read, but we all chickened out.

Tonight after the evening readings there's the "bonfire and ice cream social," only they've had to cancel the bonfire part because the ground's so wet. They mentioned Ben & Jerry's ice cream and we've decided they'd better not bring us any other kind of ice cream since we're in Vermont where Ben & Jerry's is located.

I called L yesterday to check on my babies. She said Charli bit her the first night, but she'd since warmed up and was happily playing and chirping, and that Sugar Franklin and the Bobbsey Twins were also doing great. And here I was hoping, in a way, that they missed me. Seriously, I suspect they do miss me, but L brings them lots of treats and they're certainly no fools about treats.

I found Antonya Nelson in the computer lab and asked her sign her book for me. This afternoon Sue Silverman is doing a lecture and I'm going to have her sign her book for me, too. Sue's Love Sick is an astonishingly good book, though it's subject matter is scary and risky. Antonya's book of short stories, Fun, is excellent, too.

And, of course, I bought two of Baron's books -- The Road Washes Out in the Spring: Living Off the Grid, which is good; and his chapbook about a made-up character named Carthage who's the prez of the US. And he graciously signed them for me this morning. I'm planning to read Off the Grid on the flight home.

Well, gotta go get ready for Sue's lecture on "Savory Metaphors."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Birdie Postcards

These are cute -- and free!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Baron Wormser

Though I imagined he might have a royal emblem stitched on his shirts or something, he turns out to be a nice, intense middle-aged man.

He doesn't use the usual Iowa Model in the workshops. Instead, he has someone else read your poem, then he asks questions of the class (you have to be silent, of course). Where is the narrator in this poem and what, if anything, has happened to the narrator. Why is this a poem and not an essay? Where in the poem does the ending begin? And so on. Very intense and articulate. The class responds to this very well, though occasionally someone will slip back into "Well, I feel the image in this line should . . . "

I like his style.

We're doing one poem of each member each day. He said my poem of the day was more expository writing and that I should reconsider it as an essay. I was stunned because I would never have thought of that in a million years. It was not a criticism of my language or skill but just a different perspective. I can't wait to see what happens with tomorrow's poem (which is a poem and not an essay. I think).

Even though our poems are for workshop I've been surprised at some of the work. Some people simply cannot get to the heart of the poem, are not skilled enough in the use of language to make it say what you think you're trying to say. JBH always said you have to risk something in your work -- if you're not risking something don't bother writing. This is far, far easier said than done, but at least it's the right direction. But so many people use clever language and turns of phrases to skate over the emotion in the poem, as if language was a way to avoid any risk whatsoever.

And what can you say to those people? We all have our defenses and our own good reasons for staying out of those dark risky places -- but I don't think you can ever do good work, especially in poetry, if you don't get down to those dark and risky places. The skill in using the language is crucial, of course, but secondary to the risk.

Of course, I've had two whiskey and waters and can expound all night about poetry as if I were some sort of expert in all matters of art.

It's a beautiful night here, chilly with a half moon hanging in the sky.

My birds are at home, asleep by now. I wonder if they miss me -- there's not really any way to make a pet understand that you'll return to them when you have to go. They become accustomed to the daily absences, I think, but when a flock member "disappears" what is the parrot to think? In the wild, a disappearance means that the flock member is dead, lost, gone, never to return.

And what must they think when you return -- out of nowhere -- as if nothing has happened? It must be a shock, and good reason for the punishment they mete out on you. I wish I knew some way to make them understand.

Well, I think the thing to do now is go back to my room and have another drink.

Learning Something New Every Day

I've often wondered about parrots being used as service animals; now my questions are answered! I'm going to send this to my friend who runs PEAC, too.

Arrival in Vermont

Second day at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, and it's cold! Here I packed nothing but tee-shirts and shorts and insisted on a fan in my room (dorms are not air conditioned) because it was supposed to be hot, and it's been raining and cold.

Not too much has changed in the 19 years I've been gone. Same beautiful town, dorms are in Dewey Hall instead of Noble, and the food is infinitely better.

Baron Wormser will, I think, turn out to be a good instructor. He said last night we weren't going to follow the typical Iowa model but would be using a more Socratic method, and that another classmate would read our poems out loud -- we wouldn't be reading our own work. I think these are excellent ideas and I'm looking forward to it.

Called L last night -- she got into the house okay and said she stayed about an hour. She said Charli bit her and Nicholas (probably) bit her. I apologized as if they were my children and hadn't been raised to be polite. Lord. She kindly reminded me that she has cockatiels and works as a vet tech and knows perfectly well that birds bite strangers -- that I needn't apologize. She's birdsat for me before, so she isn't exactly a stranger, but I'm sure they also remember her from the vet's.

I'm planning to sneak off after lunch, get a cab, and go downtown. They're not serving wine at the evening readings like they used to, and I could use a drink after a full day of this stuff, which means going to the state-operated liquor store. I'll miss a couple of lectures, but they're ones I'm not interested in anyway.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wretched Wednesday

What a crappy day at work today. But I did not get up and quit, and believe me I came close.

I'm mostly packed and ready to go -- just a few last-minute things tomorrow. And of course I must spend a lot of time scritching birds tomorrow night . . . enough to last a week.

L will be birdsitting and I know they'll get lots of attention, but still . . . .

Back later!

Monday, August 4, 2008


My mother bought an electronic lawn mower (Neuton) several years ago, then gave it to me. I used it a few times and loved it, but my back yard is all uphill. Really. You can't push the mower up because of the angle and you can't let the mower go down because of the angle and you can't mow sideways because the mower turns over.

So I hire a cute young guy from the neighborhood to do a half-ass job of keeping my lawn mowed for $20.00 -- just enough to keep the neighbors from complaining.

This weekend mother decided she wanted the mower back for the summer, so I easily found the mower in the storage shed. But I couldn't find the two batteries, key, and recharger that went with the mower. Anywhere. I turned the house upside down, scoured the storage shed and the little back building. Even checked the trunk of my car. Could not find them.

Mother took the news well, considering there was no point in having the mower without the batteries. I offered to give her money so she could buy a new battery but she refused. I told her to look around, that her fresh eyes might see them better than mine.

We went out to the storage shed and there -- beneath the boxed Christmas tree -- was a box marked "Neuton," containing two batteries, key, and recharger. I'd forgotten that I put everything in a box and had been looking for the separate batteries.


We loaded everything into her little whore red sports car (yes, that's the color), then went inside to cool off. She began talking about how she loves true crime and court TV on cable, then started talking about some missing child named Kelly who had a psychotic liar for a mother and a suspicious grandmother.

I reminded her that I don't have cable (I refuse to pay for more TV). She said that was good because there were things on cable I shouldn't see. Now I'm 56 years old and I've seen just about everything and lived through it. I thought she was talking about sex, but no. She said, "You're too easily swayed by all those science programs."

Yes, dear readers. I'm too easily persuaded by logic and evidence. I had no idea I needed to be shielded from science.

For those who don't know my mother, this is her religious fundamentalism showing. She believes and is "easily swayed" by everything in the King James bible, but science is a different matter.

sigh . . .

Otherwise, a so-so weekend. Had a lot of quality time with certain parrots who live in my house, had M (the young college woman) over to clean said house Saturday morning, made the obligatory trip to Wal-Mart, and began packing for Vermont.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Bad Behavior

Miserably hot and humid today. Just those words don't convey what it's like to be inside, to open the door, and have the heat hit you like an open hand. Or how breathing is an odd sensation because of the hot air going into your lungs. Plus the humidity that brings out the sweat the moment you're outside.

Thank god for air conditioning.

There's a new person next door now; a big middle-aged white woman sitting on the deck and smoking a cigarette. She's a new one. Maybe she's a babysitter.

I behaved very badly this week. I had to go to a clinic within a series of clinics for a procedure. Good doctors but otherwise the place is a nightmare. My appointment was at 2:30; I got there at 2:28 because, of course, there was no place to park.

I signed in and took a seat. There was no one at the desk and maybe 12 people scattered around the waiting area. At 2:45 something told me I'd better check that someone somewhere knew I was there. The clerk was nice and said I should be waiting in another room, off to the left.

So I trot off to the other office and tell the clerk who I am. A tech came in and the clerk said, "Your three o'clock is here." And the tech took them back.

"Why did the three o'clock people get taken before me?" I asked.

The clerk continued typing. "You weren't here."

"Yes, I was," I protested. "At two thirty. Right out there." I pointed to the waiting area.

"Did you register, ma'am?"

"Yes, I signed in." I'm still calm and willing to be polite but I'm not happy that I'll probably have to wait an extra hour because the three o'clock patients got taken before me. I handed her my insurance card.

She kept typing, then took my card and made a copy. "Did you register," she repeated.

Again, I said, "I signed in when I got here at 2:30. No one was at the counter."

"Did you register out in the hall?"


"You have to register before we can see you. The desk is outside on the left."

That's when I lost my patience. It was now three o'clock. I held up the papers they'd sent me, telling me what floor and time and so on. "This doesn't say anything about reporting outside! If you want people to go outside first, you have to tell them that. This doesn't say anything about that."

"You still have to register outside," she said. I'm surprised she didn't throw me out.

So I go stomping out of the office, go out in the hall, and see an Information kiosk, staffed with a young woman and an older woman. "Is this where I'm supposed to register?"

I tossed my insurance card on the counter, and the young woman took it. Then I went into my tirade about wasting people's time and if they want patients to report someplace they'd have to tell people. It's not like a state secret. I knew I was acting like an ass, but I was so angry I couldn't stop. The older woman smiled at me, and I curtly told her it wasn't funny and people shouldn't be treated like this. But both women were professional and didn't order me out of town or call security or anything. I could see on her face that I'd really pissed off the younger woman who was inputting the info, though.

Then I stomped back to the smaller waiting room and sat down and irritably picked up a two-year-old magazine.

A young man came in and called my name. "How are you today? We haven't seen you in a couple of years." After realizing what an ass I'd been I made an effort to get my blood pressure down.

"I'm not too happy right now," I told him. I waved the papers at him and went through my spiel about instructions for patients. He nodded kindly and said he understood.

I only "lost" a half hour, so it wasn't as bad as I thought it as going to be. The procedure went well and the staff were great.

I have such a low tolerance for bureaucratic bullshit -- everywhere in this place which is connected to zillions of other medical offices we have to fill out the same forms over and over, make the same copies of insurance cards, fill out the same damn histories, waiting times are usually in the hours (this clinic is the exception), and you're shuffled around like cattle. It just enrages me at all the money that flows through that place and how administration continually talks about patient satisfaction and quality care, and then treats people like an inconvenience. They treat people as badly as airlines treat passengers.

Normally I am nice to people in service areas; I know they don't make the big bucks and the systems that don't work aren't their fault.

Anyway, I feel bad about my outburst. I've got a meeting near that clinic Monday, so I think I need to stop by and apologize.

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